Trying something new: volunteering.

An Erasmus is more than a journey abroad. It is a possibility to learn, to experiment,and to essentially grow. 

It is a wonderful experience because we can improve our language skills, travel and see new places and most importantly, it is a chance for us to try new things. 


When I came here to Spain I wanted to spur myself to get out of my comfort zone, and given my passion for animals, I decided to volunteer at a local dog shelter!

I must admit that at the beginning the thought was quite intimidating: the closest dog shelter was an hour away, I did not speak Spanish fluently and additionally, I had no friends that were keen on embarking on this experience with me. Yet, I shook all these thoughts off and I signed up to volunteer. 

I am not going to lie, it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. 

Volunteering has been truly enriching. It’s been incredible to practically aid animals in need by taking them on walks, regardless of how exuberant or unruly they were on a leash. It has been an eye-opening experience because it has exposed me to a reality usually hidden from my sight: it has taught me a great deal about myself, dog shelters, animal abandonment, and animal behaviour. 

in specific, I volunteered at a protectora. In Spain there are mainly two types of dog shelters: the protectoras (dog sanctuaries) and the perreras.

What are the differences between the two?

The former is a non-profit organisation whose ultimate goal is to ensure animal welfare by providing shelter and medical care in order to promote adoption; the latter, on the other hand, is a for-profit institution that removes dogs from the streets at the expense of sacrificing those who have previously been welcomed in the institution.

This specific aspect particularly shocked me because it is not the norm at all in my country! For this, I felt even more happy to work alongside volunteers who fight to improve animals conditions to the best of their abilities.

Rubín

Honestly, I believe that volunteering is not at all scary or difficult work, quite the contrary I would say! During the paseos (walks), I was always able to meet new people who shared my passion for animals; they were all very nice to me, and I was always able to learn more about the Spanish culture and possibly exchange a few laughs. Furthermore, by interacting with them and exchanging information with dog shelter workers, I was able to expand my vocabulary, which was extremely beneficial!

By going there frequently I also developed a special bond with two dogs in particular: Sarabia and Rubín. They were very cuddly, sweet and calm and they always showed me affection. No matter how much I enjoyed taking them out of their cells and making them play, it was heartbreaking to leave them behind every time I went back home. 

Sarabia

Because of this, my wish for this year was for them to find a forever home before I left. I was particularly worried for Rubín: he had come to the dog shelter before September and with the passing of months, I feared that he would end up as an olvidado (forgotten). He shared a cell with 4 other dogs and so it was difficult for him to stick out from the crowd. However, just the other day I went to visit him to give him his salsicias (wurstel) and surprisingly he was not there! I got a little bit worried at the beginning, but then I talked to the volunteers and they told me that he had been adopted!!

I have never felt happier! For me, it is such a big relief to know that both of my favourite dogs are well and are now being taken care of, although many other dogs are still there waiting for new owners.

In conclusion, I can say that grew so much from this experience. It has made me feel good to offer help and to receive back nothing but love and if I have the chance to do it again, I definitely would!  

So what message do I want to send out to you?

I want to encourage you to spur yourself and always try out new things. Beginnings are scary and intimidating however, the fruits you reap are definitely worth the try!

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